It is the age of the Internet review. We all do it. A new restaurant pops up and we go online to look at the Google reviews. We judge this new place by the experiences of others instead of trusting in our own experience. We may not frequent these places because of a few bad reviews. Unfortunately these reviews aren’t verified and can be widely inaccurate. There isn’t a system to double check the facts and this can make or break a business. So how does one decode these bad reviews for veterinary practices?

1. “ They are only in it for the money.”

For anyone who has worked in veterinary medicine this statement makes us cringe. We are not rich and most veterinarians are struggling to pay bills due to the high cost of student loans. Our technician’s only make slightly more than minimum wage. When we see this statement on reviews usually it means that diagnostics or surgery were recommended for this persons pet and they were unable to come up with the money. Instead of being upset with themselves they take it out on the practice. Many veterinary practices try to work with owners in these situations but we are not a charity and unfortunately veterinary care costs money. If you see this statement in a 1-star review think hard about believing it.

2. “ They did extensive blood work and x-rays and told me nothing.”

This statement usually happens when owners do not understand the value of what was done to their pets. When we run lab work and take radiographs and everything comes back within normal range that is usually something to celebrate. That means we ruled out diabetes and kidney failure or other major diseases. If radiographs were “normal” that typically means we didn’t see any masses or foreign material in your dog or cat. The bill may seem like a shock when we “didn’t find anything wrong” but essentially we gave you peace of mind that your pet is healthy and ruled out a lot of terrible diseases. We hate seeing these reviews because usually we get excited when we get to give owners good news and then feel disappointed when owners bash us because of it.

3. “ They couldn’t figure out what was wrong with my pet.”

This type of review tends to pop up because of a few situations. The first is that the owners wouldn’t let us do any diagnostics. Sometimes we can easily diagnose a problem from a physical exam but more often than not we need to do some investigation to be able to find what is wrong with your pet. Unfortunately that means spending more than just the exam fee and a lot of people decline further diagnostic tests. The second situation is when we do find an answer but owners are noncompliant on treating. We see this a lot with skin allergy cases. Owners tend to ignore our medical advise regarding treatment plans to keep pets comfortable which means they usually come in with flared up skin and secondary infections. They get frustrated with us because of their own non-compliance. That frustration is then sent out to the masses in a 1-star review that is unfortunately not true.

4. “I waited in a room for over an hour before I was seen. They don’t care.”

This review pops up with a lot of emergency clinics. Owners get upset because they came in for emergency services or even a regular appointment and have to wait for the veterinarian to be available. Usually what happens is there is limited staff or many emergencies to get through and each one has to be judged on its priority of urgency. If your dog came in for limping and two minutes later a hit by car animal showed up then typically that means your pet is less critical and is going to wait. We understand that even the smallest emergencies with your pet make you anxious but if your animal is stable and there are more pressing cases, you will have to wait for treatment. It doesn’t mean we don’t care and often we send a technician in the room to update you on the wait. We want to help your pet and we will but realize there may be more going on in the clinic.

5. “My pets incision got infected because they messed up the surgery,” or “My pet had surgery and died because they are incompetent.”

There are many explanations for incision infections and rarely is it the veterinarians fault. Occasionally there are animals that have suture reactions, which can cause the incision area to open up or become inflamed, but this is why we recommend close monitoring of the surgical site. More often than not incision complications are due to owners not listening to post op instructions. Many owners do not keep the e-collar on at all times or do not keep the pet confined to help healing. In the end the pet suffers because they have to go through corrective surgeries, more antibiotics, and more trips to the veterinarian. Unfortunately surgery is not risk free and in a lot of emergency situations pets can pass under anesthesia or sometimes a few days later. This doesn’t mean that the veterinarian messed up the surgery but with emotions running high sometimes owners need someone to blame for their grief. These statements are some of the worst because veterinarians cannot give their account of what happened.

Always know there are two sides to the story and a lot of the time anger gets the best of people when writing reviews. These lies can break a business and feeding into someone else’s opinions just makes things worse. Learn how to decode the false reviews and make your own educated decision about a business.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the editorial team.

Dr. Nicole Palumbo is a 2012 graduate from University of Illinois. She is originally from the south side of Chicago but chose to move to Northwest Pennsylvania for her first job out of veterinary school. She works with small animals, exotics, and also volunteers her time at the local wildlife rescue, typically performing surgeries and exams on the many raptors that are admitted to the facility. Recently she has taken a job with an emergency/general practice closer to Pittsburgh. With time she hopes to focus more time on wildlife medicine and also obtain specialization in feline medicine.